US videogame lovers are adapting to tough economic times by turning to low-cost online play, according to figures released Friday by industry tracker comScore.
Some 87 million US Internet users visited online videogame websites in May, a 22 percent increase from the same month last year, according to comScore.
The continuing surge in online game play was attributed, in part, to people opting for "cheaper entertainment alternatives" in grim economic conditions.
The amount of online play is growing 10 times as fast as the overall US Internet population, with nearly one of every two users getting in the game, according to comScore gaming solutions director Edward Hunter.
"Online gaming continues to be one of the top gaining categories over the past year," Hunter said.
"Growth in the category is occurring not only at the top gaming destination sites, but also through viral distribution platforms, including widgets and applications."
ComScore ranked Yahoo! Games the top spot for online play, saying that the number of visitors there in May rose to 19.4 million, a six percent climb from the same month last year.
US videogame giant Electronic Arts saw visits to EA Online rocket 34 percent to 18 million, according to comScore.
Spikes in visits were also seen at smaller gaming sites, such as GameNinja.com, Y8.com and GSN Games Network.
More than two million people in North America have registered to play online first-person shooter game Combat Arms since Nexon Corp. launched it in here a year ago, according to the South Korean online game producer.
Nexon games, such as blockbuster "Maple Story," are free to play online with the company making money from "micro-transactions," such as sales of digitized clothing or accessories for animated in-game characters.
"Nexon's 'Combat Arms' reflects the continued growth of the free-to-play landscape and its potential in the North American marketplace," the company said in a statement.
(c) 2009 AFP
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